Letters to Churches

Letters to Churches

A man was stranded alone on a desert island. Years passed before he was rescued. During this time he built three buildings. His rescuers asked what they were. Pointing to the first he said, “That’s my home, where I live.” Pointing to the second, “That’s the church where I worship each Sunday. I’m a religious person.” When asked about the third building, he replied, “That’s the church I used to attend.”

Church—for many the word does not evoke feelings of deep commitment or devotion. Like grocery stores and telephone companies, we will switch in a flash for a better deal.

A man stranded on the desert island of Patmos wrote the Revelation. John could not forget the Church to whom he was committed, so he wrote letters to seven of the churches of Asia Minor. He wrote the letters in geographical order of delivery, following the Roman postal system: Ephesus to Smyrna to Pergamum to Thyatira to Sardis to Philadelphia to Laodicea. John’s heart and mind traveled the road his feet knew well.

John begins each letter by introducing Jesus to the church. In his world, titles came at the beginning of the letter. Jesus had plenty:

  • The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand
  • The One who walks among the seven golden lampstands
  • The First and the Last
  • The One who was dead and came to life
  • The One with the sharp, two-edged sword
  • The One with flaming eyes
  • The One with burnished bronze feet
  • The One who has the seven spirits of God
  • The Holy One
  • The True One
  • The One who opens and no one shuts
  • The One who shuts and no one opens
  • The Faithful and True Witness
  • The Origin of God’s creation

Wouldn’t you love to get letters from this Jesus?

You did.

In each letter, Jesus says, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” Notice that’s churches, not church. Each letter is for all seven churches to hear—and for the Church of today to overhear.

The Spirit is speaking. Is anyone listening?

The true Church is people who listen to what the Spirit says. While the opening and closing of each letter is similar, the body of each of the letters differs. In the letters we find a mixture of sound affirmations, stern rebukes, tender encouragement, and phenomenal promises. Jesus gives each church what they need. He knows where we are, and He wants us to listen.

I find it comforting to know that even though some of the churches were far from healthy, John never said, “That’s the church I used to attend.”

Today’s post is an excerpt from Answers for Chicken Little: A No-Nonsense Look at the Book of Revelation.

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